Asset buyout suggestion

THE concept of a Community Asset Buyout, which might see a locally-run trust or trusts own and operate a number of buildings in Laurencekirk, was introduced to members of Mearns Community Council at their May meeting.

Committee chairman David Nelson said he had been involved in preliminary discussions on such “buyouts” which might see Aberdeenshire Council relinquish such buildings in Laurencekirk as the St Laurence Hall, the Community Centre and the Burgh Buildings.

Mr Nelson said: “Buildings which Aberdeenshire Council might be happy to dispose of might be given over to local control.

“We were told that buildings in this category are the St Laurence Hall, the Burgh Buildings and the Community Centre.

“Nothing has been decided, but these are the three assets which they (the council) would be keen to enter into negotiations about to see if the community might take over the running of them.”

Mr Nelson said that bodies like Villages in Control and the Business Club might be involved in setting up a trust if there was local interest in taking over any or all of the buildings mentioned.

Jim Stuart then suggested that the Burgh Buildings was not Aberdeenshire Council’s to sell, saying that it had been gifted many years ago by Johnston Estate to the Episcopal Church for use as a school.

Mr Nelson replied that Area Manager William Munro insisted that the building did belong to the council and Susie Brown said that the Episcopal Church laid no claim to it.

Mr Nelson said the next move might be the setting up of a Development Trust to give Aberdeenshire Council a body to negotiate with.

Mr Stuart attacked the idea of the St Laurence Hall being taken over by the community in its current state.

“The council have spent nothing on upgrading the St Laurence Hall and the exhorbitant charges which they level discourage people from using it.

“They have ruined that hall and are they going to bring it up to standard?

“The hall belongs to the Laurencekirk people. They got it for nothing (from Laurencekirk Town Council) so do they have the right to sell it?

“It is disgraceful. They have run it down and we are being asked to start again.”

It was suggested that there might be no need for the St Laurence Hall with the refurbished Dickson Hall just a few yards away, but Mr Stuart said the St Laurence was the only hall that could host a company of over 220 for a function.

Councillor George Carr said there was nobody better at running community facilities than the people themselves, giving Stonehaven outdoor pool and Bervie caravan park as examples. He urged members to be open minded.”

In conclusion Mr Stuart said the Burgh Buildings must not be knocked down and the site used for flats.

He said that given the problems with car parking in Laurencekirk, but would be better if the site was used for that purpose.